Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas and all that

Greetings of the season to all clients, friends and families from your friends at Planet Travel. Hoping your new year is filled with many happy traveling memories.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A low-rollers' guide to hotels in Las Vegas

Several Tribune Newspapers writers review more "affordable" rooms in Las Vegas. They explain why the average room rates have shot up and reveal the best month to book rooms to get the best rates. We wonder why they chose not to reveal the one hotel they stayed at that was so bad they wouldn't reveal its name.

link to Planet Travel's Las Vegas Connection with great prices to our favorite destination

21 Rules of Stress Free Travel

Peter Greenberg in Best Life magazine offers the 21 rules of stress-free travel. Follow them and seize back a little control of the unfriendly skies we fly in today.
"Once upon a time, air travel was a glamorous adventure. Now, it's more of a calamitous misadventure. Here's how to get from place to place without feeling like part of a cattle drive"

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Cancun update

The December 3, 2006 Chicago Tribune travel section features an article updating Cancun resorts after hurricane Wilma. After a very disappointing summer, winter bookings are encouraging. But beware there are complaints about the recently replenished sand beaches. Our own travel insider all inclusive vacations web site is updating the ten best all inclusive resorts for 2007. Be sure to check our suggestions before you book your next vacation.

link to Planet Travel's travel insider all inclusive vacations

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The problem with Venice

We took this picture from the Academia bridge in Venice just a week and half ago. What a Kodak moment. I guess we always figured that the point of visiting Venice was just to be in Venice. Exploring the narrow streets. Getting lost. The very quiet nights. Dodging the pigeons at St. Marks. Venice has always been a very expensive tourist destination. What we weren't quite prepared for during this visit was just how expensive it has become and how tourist unfriendly it really is. Whether it was the assault of local "gypsies" offering to help us carry our luggage over the bridge at the railroad stations, we had visions of chasing them through the streets with our stolen luggage, the mediocre overpriced food at virtually every restaurant we frequented, or the "scam" of charging our credit card for the entire stay at our hotel two weeks prior to our check in date, we came to the conclusion that this very special place has become very tourist unfriendly. The guide books write about the problems of the shrinking Venice population caused by living on water and the expensive cost of transporting everything into the city. It seems that the remaining locals have taken a rather zealous unrepentent aim at the swarms of unsuspecting tourist's pocketbooks. Maybe the economics of the place have something to do with it. During our ten day visit to Italy, visiting very touristy Florence, Lake Como, and Tuscany, we only encountered the scam of converting our credit card charges into dollars on site at a very expensive exchange rate....Venice. Money rule number one. When traveling in Europe only pay with Euros. When traveling in America only pay in dollars. Prego.

Check out our link to Planet Travel's Europe City Tours for more information about traveling to Italy

Thursday, October 12, 2006

WUIS Passport Tour to Italy May 2007 Update

Thanks to those who attended our information meeting Wednesday evening. One particpant asked about the hotels we will be staying at during the tour. We will be posting our hotels within the week. Our supplier is currently negotiating with three hotels in Rome. When we hear back from them, we will post more information our our web site. In addition, we have tentative plane schedules that require a rather long first day. The current plane schedule requires us to leave Springfield at 9:00 a.m. with a plane change before we fly to Rome. We have requested a shorter layover and anticipate that we will be leaving Springfield later than 9:00 a.m. on May 16, 2007. More updates shortly. Thank you to all who have booked the trip so far. We have already met half of our group goal. Please don't hesitate to call our office at 877-713-7650 if you have any questions.

link more information about our WUIS Passport Tour to Italy May 2007

Sunday, October 01, 2006

WUIS Passport Tour to Italy May 2007

Sometimes time can slip away from us. When last we posted we were headed to Las Vegas and in the midst of planning a group trip with public radio station WUIS to help them with their fall fund raising drive. Mission accomplished. It has been a very busy two months. We are now up and going. Promotion for the trip is underway and and we are planning a two week trip to France and Italy for the last two weeks in October. This trip will help us complete the WUIS group trip details. If you haven't had a chance to check out the WUIS trip, please do so. We spent a significant amount of time planning this trip, doing our best to combine the best of Florence and Rome for the group, while incorporating plenty of free time for each individual member. We are especially proud of our group dinner selections because group dinner on the whole we have found are not the best. Adding the chance to attend the Maggio Musicale Florentino concerts makes this trip a special can't get it anywhere else experience. We have done the hard stuff. You know. The transportation connections, the hotels, the ticket purchases, that can make independent travel a struggle at times. It is a great trip. Hope you can enjoy us.

Check out our link to Planet Travel's Europe City Tours for more information about our WUIS Passport Tours to Italy trip

Monday, July 24, 2006

Why we don't care for these three Las Vegas Resorts

We spend a lot of time recommending Las Vegas resorts to our clients. It seems that "first time visitors" seem to have just two requirements when we ask them where they want to stay at during their next Vegas vacation. It has to meet their budget and it has to be on the strip. After that, it is up to us to make a hotel recommendation. Our clients really have to want to stay at the Stratosphere. Usually those clients have very limited budgets. Not because it is bad place to stay. The rooms are clean. Food is OK. Nothing special though. Gambling above average for the strip. It is just the fact that it is sooooo isolated on the northern end of the strip. Anytime you want to venture anyplace else, you better have a car or hop on the deuce, to get where you want to go. And by the way the surrounding neighborhood is too iffy in our opinion. Especially that across the street hotel from the Stratosphere, name escapes for a moment. Was that gunshots we heard last time we visited the Stratosphere?

And that isolation thing also plays in our recommendation of staying at the Mandalay Bay.
No it wasn't the surely security guard that chased us out of the pool area after hours or the tight, no make that incredibly tight, slot machines at the Mandalay Bay, that soured us on the resort. If you stay at the Mandalay Bay, anytime you want to get anywhere else, be prepared for the long walk through the Luxor and the Excalibur, or the long wait and ride on the free tram to the Excalibur before you get to anywhere else. Why spend the money to stay at Mandalay Bay, when the Bellagio is in the center of everything? Or for that matter Ceasars or Paris or the great pool area at the Flamingo.

And finally the The New Frontier. Destined for the wrecking ball. The New Frontier remains our "number one dumpiest casino on the strip award winner." We stole this one sentence review from the cheapo Las Vegas website. "It's about as ratty as an unwashed prospector." We don't know where the "new" comes from. Nothing new at this casino in many years.

Back to Las Vegas next week. More news to follow.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Crown Princess Accident

A rather neat summary of the Crown Princess listing accident from the Orlando Sentinel including an interactive illustration of what happened. The incident renews a call from various experts for more regulation of the cruise industy. The cruise industry continues to be plagued with various serious incidents including fires, sickness, lost passengers, dead passengers, and apparently a similar "steering problem" on another Princess ship earlier this year. Time to kick in the PR machine. Watch for even more cruise sales as bookings continue to be soft this year. Not entirely the fault of these past incidents.

Find the latest cruise sales from planet travel online

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The winds of a recession

We have been crossing our fingers lately at Planet Travel. Bookings are starting to show an uptick from a very slow first quarter. But now the economists are warning about the possiblility of a recession and identify the current economy as being caught in stagflation. Stagflation is that condition of rising inflation and a slowing economy. What does that mean to the travel consumer? Deals. Already we have seen fall and winter sales at rates that are well off this summer's record high prices. The latest visitor counts in Las Vegas are showed a drop in May 2006. Although, the reason given was fewer conventions, we think higher gasoline prices and sky high strip room rates are having more of an effect than they realize. Already August travel bookings are down industry wide. Wait and see. The sales are coming.

link to Planet Travel. Don't forget to check our daily updated list of hot deals

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Yet another trip to Las Vegas yields two more tips.

We have just returned from Las Vegas leading a Planet Travel client group of 20 and discovered two additional tips to pass along. How we missed them before we don't know. In hindsight they were as plain as the nose on our faces.

After hiking for seemingly miles to the closest monorail station from the Riviera (didn't know before that Donald Trump was once a minority stockholder of the Riviera that had something to do with his ongoing feud with Steve Wynn) we figured that there had to be a better way. The distance between monorail stations in Las Vegas and the resorts they serve will ultimately be the system's downfall. Not well thought out in hindsight. The speed of the monorail doesn't match the long, long, walks, to the stations. We decided to try the local transit system strip bus: the Deuce. Started in October, 2005, you can ride up and down the strip for 24 hours for just $5.00. The cost of just one ride on the monrail. It is a slow trip any time of the day on the very busy strip. And the wait time between busses can be long. It is still the best way to get up and down the strip or get downtown to check out Fremont street.

Here is a link to the deuce's web site

link to more information about the deuce

Walgreens has the cheapest souvenirs on the strip. What do you want? Ashtrays. T-Shirts. Las Vegas Signs. Retro Vegas pictures and posters. Walgreens has them. Cheaper than anywhere else we could find. The proof is the current fav souvenir a desktop flashing light up replica of the Las Vegas sign found on the far south end of the strip. Walgreens has them for $29.95. Everywhere else we found them the price was as much as ten dollars more. Save money to spend on the new shortened to 95 minutes from the original two hours and 40 minutes version of the Phantom of the Opera at the Venetian. What is with that anyway? I guess in Vegas anything is possible. Especially when you charge $150.00...twice the amount as the West End orignal version charges for the old original longer version.

link to Planet Travel's Las Vegas Connection with great prices to our favorite destination

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Some pics from our latest Las Vegas visit.

The new Red Rock Casino is still under construction. It just opened in April and is still having some opening pains.

We waited more than an hour in line to eat at the Red Rock's buffet. They simply didn't have the staff to handle the crowd. Our waitress Linda told us that they just blew it on Memorial Day. But it was worth the wait. Without a doubt one of the best casino buffets in Las Vegas. Great selection. An incredible value for just $8.00 at lunch.

The view just west of the Red Rocks. Desert. Mountains. Barren.

The new Wynn features a wall of water show. But you have to purchase a drink to get a close up view.

The cheap seats to see the new Wynn water show.

The new Wynn casino reminds us very much of what casino? Bellagio perhaps.

The strip Memorial day evening looking south from Ballys.

link to our Las Vegas connection...more ways to get to our favorite destination

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

25 Ways to Make Your Next Flight Easier

We were researching a product called the "Knee Defenders." Knee Defenders help you stop reclining airplane seatbacks so your knees won't have to. A simple product, Knee Defenders are used in pairs to block or partially limit reclining airplane seats. We didn't buy them, but found something very interesting. Their website links to an old...but still relevent...article in the Washington Post chock full of tips for making that next flight a little more bearable.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

The Planet Travel Insider gets some local press

Springfield, Illinois State, Journal Register article updates American Airlines recent change of service. Don Fuener is quoted in the story. Actually, if the truth be told we tipped the paper to the changes and American Airlines intial action of canceling flights from Springfield, Illinois, causing panic for hundreds of passengers. When we called American Airlines to find out what was going on....our clients were being asked to fly out of other cities...the agent's reaction was only "oh my this is very strange. I don't know what to tell you to do." American reinstated limited service to Springfield, Illinois 72 hours later. Such is life in a small airport market.

Book Springfield Illinois flights at Planet Travel and get super support from friendly fellow travelers

8 great American cities

Chicago Tribune staff reporter Alan Solomon asked eight people who know their cities well what we shouldn't miss on a visit. I think these type of travel articles are very rare and very valuable. Most travel articles rely on the stranger discovering the destination. In this case, we are relying on the local to pass on their favorite. Whenever we travel, we always try to become temporary locals. We are on a quest. Searching for the locally popular restaurant, the not to be missed tourist site, and the favorite neighborhood to discover. This article fits the bill very well.

visit Planet Travel to plan your next vacation to 8 great American cities

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Urinals shaped like women's lips

Not quite as pricey to build as the new Wynn, the new Red Rock Station Resort does indeed have urinals shapled like women's lips. Here is a link of a review of the just opened five star wannabe resort from the Chicago Suntimes Travel Section.

A Link to more Las Vegas information at Planet Travel's Las Vegas Connections

Monday, April 17, 2006

Do I need a passport? Here is the latest update.

Here is the latest update about passport requirements from Chicago Tribune travel columnist Alfred Borcover.

link to travel insider all inclusive

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Las Vegas for $250.00 A Day or $1,000.00 Per Day...The New York Times Adds Its Two Cents

From Sunday's March 19, 2006 two articles about doing Vegas with two budgets. Interesting that both authors, apparently without consultation with each other, chose to visit a range offering the chance to shoot a "real machine gun." Go figure. All the entertainment choices available, and these New Yorkers choose to spend part of their Las Vegas day shooting paper Osama targets. Other articles archived from as far back as 2002.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Excess Baggage BBC-Radio 4 Link

One of life's little pleasures is the BBC internet site with its overwhelming choices of on demand progammes now available to download .

If you are unfamliar with BBC 4 here is the wikipedia link with a good overview of the flagship BBC station:

One of our favorite programs is the travel show Excess Baggage presented by Sandi Toksvig. The past highlights available to listen include an inteview with our travel hero Michael Palin, tips on traveling to Venice, the Middle East, Krakow, Hiroshima, India, travel to war zones, hidden Spain and even a preview of space travel.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The London Sunday Times explains how to be a luxury cheapskate

Get more than you paid for with Jeremy Lazell's seven rules of blagging, bartering and begging for high-end travel at bargain prices.

Pay less. Travel better. Lazell explains how to travel for less.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Rick Steves says he is not anti-travel agent.

You need a travel agent. Rick Steves, the European do it yourself independent travel host, writer and producer of the popular PBS television series Rick Steves' Europe, and best-selling author of 30 European travel books has become an advocate of using travel agents. He especially encourages purchasing airfare through travel agents. He writes:

"You can't save money by buying directly from the airlines."

"Travel agents save you money."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The low-rollers Las Vegas

Or how I made $75.00 from nothing but coupons and casino cards. This article from the Dallas Morning News warms our heart. Low stake gambling. Coupon promotions. Getting off the strip for better deals. It is a lesson in doing Las Vegas 101. Free registration...rather annoying is required to read the story.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Are cheap Las Vegas strip hotel rooms a thing of the past?

The Las Vegas Review journal speculates about the strip's future based upon the recent closing or about to be closed 5,000 lower-cost hotel rooms. Fewer bargain rooms means fewer bargain travelers. Is this good or bad for the strip's future?

Monday, February 20, 2006

Majority surveyed still consider Las Vegas a good value

Here is a link to the Las Vegas Review Journal latest article finding that Las Vegas' higher prices are still not keeping visitors away. But yet there is some concern about Tribal gambling.

Cancun Update

Cancun is still recovering from the destruction of Hurricane Wilma. Work still continues. Here is an update from the Chicago Sun Times Travel Section, including some recent on site reports about the rebuilding efforts at Cancun

Friday, February 17, 2006

The Imperial Palace She Ain't What She Used To Be. A Quick Las Vegas Trip Report.

Two colleagues just returned from five days attending a Las Vegas trade show. Staying at the Imperial Palace, they came back with very mixed feelings about the property which was recently sold to Harrahs in August 2005.

We liked the Imperial Palace because of its moderately priced rooms and absolutely great location.

This time however the rooms were rather worn, the casino had huge vacant spots were slot machines had been removed, causing it to be more crowded then needed.

Although no official announcement has been made, expect the Imperial Palace to be torn down soon as Harrahs will soon disclose its' plans to expand its presence in Las Vegas.

Valentine Day weekend was very popular. Las Vegas was crowded. Wait times, even at restaurants like the Cheesecake Factory were well over an hour Saturday night.

Le Village Buffet at Paris Las Vegas has made the No. 1 spot on the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s “Best of Las Vegas” poll for three consecutive years.

Le Village Buffet serves foods inspired by five provinces of France. Each station is themed after a particular province, including certain artictectural charisteristics of the region. Guests order their meals at each station

La Raclette area features melted cheese, cured meats, steamed potatoes, assorted vegetables and French bread. La Grillade food station offers a selection of assorted skewers of meat, seafood and grilled sausages.

The Brittany station specializes in crepes, while Normandy offers seafood and fish. Burgundy features prime rib, ham, rotisserie chicken, veal stew and pork chops. Alsace serves traditional chicken mushroom vol-au-vent, stuffed croissants, grilled Alsacian sausage and salmon scrambled eggs.

Le Village Buffet is a find and can be expensive. More than $25.00 for Sunday buffet. However, if you show up at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, you can still take advantage of the cheaper breakfast buffet bruch price. Just linger a little until the official start of the 11:00 a.m. Champaign brunch, and enjoy the much more elaborate and exceptional buffet for half the price.